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Clothing the Gap unites people through virtual event ‘RunRona’

Rachael Knowles -

The deadly creatives behind the 'Free the Flag' and 'Shades of Deadly' campaigns, Clothing the Gap are back with their virtual run or walk event, RunRona.

Set to take place during Reconciliation Week, the virtual event will see almost 1,000 registered participants from Australia and the world get out and get moving on May 30 and 31.

RunRona offers participants the option to run or walk various distances between five and 42 kilometres.

NIT spoke with Clothing the Gap's Director of Operations, Sarah Sheridan, and Managing Director, Laura Thompson.

An Aboriginal owned and led social enterprise, Sheridan and Thompson began Clothing the Gap in response to the desire to support their other social enterprise, Spark Health, which began in 2017 and focuses on health promotion.

Initially sitting under Spark Health's umbrella, Clothing the Gap soon grew into its own. Currently, the brand has a community of almost 20,000 on Instagram.

With COVID-19 sweeping the nation and many struggling to keep active, Sheridan and Thompson thought now would be the best time to kick off RunRona.

"We really loved the idea [of a virtual run] ... It was a great way to get people active and we had wanted to do one for a while, but since Coronavirus happened and all those restrictions [were put in place], it was like the perfect time to try it on," Thompson said.

The Clothing the Gap team came together to design a program that offered the opportunity to participate to all people, regardless of fitness level and schedules.

"Because it is a virtual event it does mean that it is your race, from your place, at your pace," Sheridan said.

"It is just about making sure we get something done to keep us active and connected."

RunRona is open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and hosts a tiered registration fee system.

"We put [RunRona] out in the world and before we knew it had 500 non-Indigenous people enrol and no Aboriginal people," Thompson said.

"It's what we planned for but it's not what drives us every day, [so] we put in the tiered registration system with half-price community entry."

"Last time we looked we had increased our Aboriginal participation to 20 percent and Aboriginal people have started to feel like this is an event for them too."

"We've always wanted to be really clear that it is not a discount for the Aboriginal community, there are just two separate rates for registration because it's around equity and it shouldn't feel like a discount. It just is what it is," added Sheridan.

RunRona has attracted ambassadors from all walks of life, including ex-footballer and boxer, Joe Williams, Tiddas4Tiddas podcast Founder, Marlee Silva, 5am Sisters running group member and This Girl Can ambassador, Kirsten Hausia and Wiradjuri author, poet and social commentator, Dr Anita Heiss.

RunRona is also being supported by Richmond Football Club in Victoria. The club is using RunRona within its Korin Gamadji Institute, which focuses on Indigenous youth leadership and health.

It's also seen the participation of many young women from Girls Academy in Karratha, WA who are taking on RunRona for their health and wellbeing in term three.

RunRona is encouraging people from all walks of life to participate in the virtual run walk event. Photo via @clothingthegap Instagram.

Registered participant Jo Pappas is training for the 10km run. Pappas is a proud Kokatha and Mirning Aboriginal woman.

"I was so disappointed when parkrun [free community running events] had to stop due to Coronavirus. It was my weekly social catch up and I love the camaraderie that running with my friends brings, cheering each other on," she said.

"Now with support from the training plans, I'm running further than I ever have and feeling stronger mentally and physically.

"I'm enjoying being able to support my friends' training through social media, we're all posting our training runs and keeping each other accountable online. Having something like RunRona has kept me motivated and in an active routine!"

With the huge success RunRona has already accumulated, the Clothing the Gap team is putting into motion plans for a virtual march to celebrate NAIDOC Week in July.

Due to the postponing of NAIDOC Week, Clothing the Gap wants to ensure mob still have connection to a community, still have support, and still have the opportunity to take to the streets in pride.

"We are already excited about people running in slogan t-shirts they've made themselves, and families still doing their march through their communities with banners. We're just so excited about what this will look like," Sheridan said.

For more information or to register for RunRona, visit: https://clothingthegap.com.au/pages/run-rona.

By Rachael Knowles

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